Local firms consider flexible workspaces

August 17, 2020
by Filinvest Development Corporation

Philippine companies are increasingly looking at flexible workspace to cut cost and provide better facilities for staff finding it hard to work from home amid Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

More firms inquired about flexible offices in Manila while shelving expansion plans amid the pandemic, Janlo de los Reyes, head of research and consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. in Manila, said at a virtual briefing Wednesday. Shared offices can provide employees better infrastructure support than what they have at home, including a more stable Internet connection, he said.

Office space vacancies from Shanghai to Tokyo are rising, as companies turn to work-from-home setups. In Manila, Colliers International Group Inc. estimates office rents to fall 17 percent this year while vacancies could rise to 5.3 percent as builders delay construction.

Flexible workspace arrangements also allow companies to cut costs and sign shorter lease contracts, Jonathan Wright, a director for Asia Pacific at Colliers, said at a separate briefing. “You have the ability to use a lot of the spaces when you need them.”

By allowing employees to work in different shared offices, companies can “spread risk” of a virus outbreak within their organization, de los Reyes said. Workers can also choose a work space that’s nearer them to avoid commuting, as Manila limits public transport to contain the pandemic, he added. He said while inquiries have increased, deals closed are small and cover a few seats for company.

Filinvest strategy

Conglomerate Filinvest Development Corp. (FDC) has also come up with a working arrangement that seeks to ensure that its business would stay afloat during the pandemic.

“For Filinvest, our program revolves around three things—the mitigation of infection risk by managing density, testing combined with contact tracing, and the strict hygiene and social distancing protocols in the workplace,” FDC CEO Josephine Gotianun Yap said. Yap said the company decided to divide its workforce into two shifts as the government implemented certain degrees of lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“Each shift works three days a week with longer hours. This cut our density in half and provided a back-up workforce should there be a spread affecting one shift,” she said. Filinvest said it arranged for shuttle service under a cost sharing scheme for their employees to reduce the risk of infection from commuting.

Yap is part of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) Covid Task Force T3 (Trace, Test and Treat).

Filinvest has used the Stay Safe application as recommended by the IATF, which she said has become a very important tool for the company. “Every employee and our visitors are required to register in Stay Safe. Through Stay Safe, we are able to monitor daily health reporting, identify those who have been tagged suspects or probable by the LGUs before entering into our premises and it allowed us to easily trace close contacts when there is a symptomatic person.”


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